On Friday, March 23, I had the pleasure of taking part in a media event that celebrated the 25th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. Here are some of the highlights.
Our day started with a look at the Purple Martin Program. I will admit that I knew little about the birds, or the conservation program for them that takes place at Walt Disney World. Artificial nests are set up in both Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Purple martins will fly from South America all the way up to Canada. The flocks will take the same journey each year. The birds at Walt Disney World fly over 3,000 miles from Brazil. They are used to humans, and don’t mind the conservation staff checking their eggs and such. We saw some eggs that are almost ready to hatch. We also learned that the birds are tagged with their own special ankle “MagicBand”. Some also receive a small backpack, which is used to better track the birds once they fly back to Brazil. It was interesting to learn about the birds, and I loved the passion of the Cast Members who gave us the information. I plan to go back several times before the end of the Flower & Garden Festival to see the changes.
Next we headed over to The Land for the Behind the Seeds Tour. We headed into the greenhouses and learned about the 150 types of food that are grown there. We learned about different techniques for pest control that don’t involve spraying. We saw inside the Bio-tech Lab, but we couldn’t go inside because it needs to remain a sterile environment. Then we entered the Creative Greenhouse, which features hydroponic growing techniques. With hydroponics, no soil is needed, and less water is used. Some of the crops that we saw were tomatoes, lettuce, and Japanese eggplant. Sara, the intern who was our tour guide, showed us how they grow the Mickey shaped cucumbers. We sampled cucumbers as well. We also saw a giant winter melon, and learned about coffee, figs, and sugar cane. That is grown in the greenhouses for the gorillas at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
The tour continued with the aqua tanks, and we could help feed the fish if we wanted. After that it was the Tropical Greenhouse. Some of the crops there are bananas, coconuts, and mangoes. We saw the spice garden, and took the Spice Challenge. We then learned about the five most expensive spices on the planet. As we headed back we learned about miracle fruit, which is supposed to make everything else that you eat taste sweet. We also found out that they grow Carolina Reaper peppers at Epcot, which we were told are the hottest peppers in the world. Carolina Reaper peppers are served on the Spicy Fish Tacos at Sunshine Seasons in a diluted form.
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If you’re looking for a behind the scenes tour that won’t take up a full day of your vacation, consider Behind the Seeds. All ages are welcome, and it lasts about an hour. The cost is $25 per adult and $20 for children. It was filled with information, and there were plenty of opportunities to ask questions.
A little bit later in the day we were treated to a lunch that featured some of the foods from the outdoor kitchens this year. The top dish served in the outdoor kitchens for the festival in 2018 is Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider with Garlic Sausage, Chorizo, Cheddar Fondue and House-made Pickle, which is found at The Smokehouse. The best selling dessert is Local Wildflower Honey-Mascarpone Cheesecake with Orange Blossom Honey Ice Cream garnished with Fennel Pollen Meringue Kisses at The Honey Bee-stro Hosted by National Honey Board.
After lunch we learned that this is the fifth year for the outdoor kitchens. Some of the original dishes have returned for this year, but they’ve been improved upon. We learned that the first festival was 38 days long, while this year it runs for 90 days. It’s a conservation festival, so we learned a bit about Disney and various conservation projects. We were treated to a presentation on the partnership between Disney and Joffrey’s Coffee, which has brought more efficient growing techniques to coffee farmers in Alto Mayo, Peru.
There were two surprise guests at the end of the lunchtime presentation. We were joined by Wayne Nelson and Chris Marion from Little River Band. They talked about the differences between playing three shows a night at Garden Rocks versus a regular 90 minute show. They talked about their favorite songs, their influences, and some of the changes that have taken place in the music industry in the past 40 years.
The media event ended with Little River Band performing for Garden Rocks. The 30 minute show was filled with hits, including Reminiscing and Lonesome Loser.
If you haven’t yet been to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival in 2018, you need to make plans. It runs until May 28, and there is plenty to keep you busy. It’s more beautiful this year than ever before, and it changes with the seasons and the weather. If you’re at Walt Disney World and you see a gardener working on the landscaping, take a moment and thank him or her. They put in long hours, and it’s more than just a job to them. It is something that they are passionate about.